As the number of COVID-19 cases rose among students and faculty, many students and faculty members pondered the likelihood of school not remaining in person for the remainder of the year.
Vaccination rates, community COVID levels and classroom ventilation play in the decision-making process of shifting back to online. Even though campus has only been open for a short time, the numbers kept rising. As students have experienced the noticeable loss of classmates in their classrooms, activities and their own households, it is difficult for some to displace the feeling that life is returning back to March 2020.
However, several different factors must be taken into consideration before a final decision can be made by the COVID Response Team. For example, the risk level has to be in the red range. The different risk levels indicate the appropriate response the college should take against rising COVID numbers. On Jan. 13, 2022, there were 73 active cases.
Allison Roth, a first-year music education major, said “I think going back online would be good because it would limit people’s exposure to COVID and the new variant. It’s been a little scary, because you think ‘I might be the next one that has to be quarantined.’”
Fall of 2021 did not have the number of students shifting to an online format. Concordia remained at the green risk level for all of last semester. According to the Concordia website COVID-19 Case Count on Jan. 13, 2022, 73 students had active cases. In addition to student cases, staff members accounted for 16 of the active COVID-19 cases on campus. With the high of a new calendar year, the low of the pandemic is making adjusting to a new semester much more difficult.
Nat Dickey, chair of the music department and professor for low brass and jazz ensembles, offered insight on how COVID has impacted the music program. One of the challenges of music is how much community and performance are involved. Having to lose the cohesiveness of a shared practice can be tough, but music can adapt.
“Ensembles are probably the most challenging thing,” Dickey said. “A Zoom lesson is not the greatest, but we can still accomplish something.”
Dickey said he thinks that it is unlikely that Concordia will go back online since the risk level would have to move up twice for that to be a possibility.
Another side effect of going online would be to miss out on in-person labs in the science department. Teaching at Concordia since 2006, professor Krys Strand is known to some students as a valuable member of the Concordia community. She remembered back to when the pandemic had just started and how she would get to school at either 4 or 5 a.m. to get materials for her students ready.
Strand feels like Concordia is right back at the beginning of the pandemic. With the possibility of going online, she thinks it would be destructive just as March 2020 was to the school year; she feels like the college as a whole would be unprepared in the case of going back online.
Similar to Dickey, she thinks it would take a lot to switch back to the online classroom. “I would be surprised if the college goes back online,” said Strand.
Anne Mocko, a professor in the religion department, shares a different view of the situation. She has a lot of family and friends in New Jersey. A lot of them have been on the front lines and continue to be on those front lines. With the added stress that many of her friends and family members were going through the worst of it, that constant reminder has guided her through her own precautions. She feels guilt, but she believes that we should go back online until the risk level returns to the green zone.
Even though her preference is for the online format, Mocko is worried that students would start to drift off. She is worried that the distraction of online classes would mean losing the focus of her students.